BYOD forces users’ personal information on help desk

BYOD forces users’ personal information on help desk

Help desk staffers can be caught in the middle when BYOD users get verrrry personal with their devices.

As the recent scandal over leaked celebrity photographs reminded us all, people use their electronic devices for very personal pursuits in the era of smartphone ubiquity. Depending on the age and inclination of its owner, a modern-day digital device might contain not just nude selfies like those that were shared online, but images from dating sites like Tinder and Grindr, creepshots, or other salacious or even illegal material downloaded from the backwaters of “the dark Web” via anonymizers like Tor.

As blogger Kashmir Hill summed up as the selfie scandal was unfolding, “Phones have become sex toys.”

If that’s true, then those toys are making their way into the workplace in record numbers, thanks to the ever-increasing number of organizations adopting bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.

In a perfect world, none of this should concern help desk employees — with a well-executed mobile management program in place that incorporates containerization, a technician ought to be able to assist employees with corporate apps and data without encountering so much as a pixel of not-safe-for-work (NSFW) material.

But the world isn’t always perfect, as IT support staffers know perhaps more than most. Which means they can find themselves looking not just at enterprise applications but at private images and texts they’d really rather not see. Or politely pointing out to an employee who’s synced all her devices to the cloud that pictures from her honeymoon are currently being displayed on the conference room’s smartboard. Or repeatedly removing viruses picked up by the same users visiting the same porn sites.

The scope of the problem

In a survey published last year by software vendor ThreatTrack Security, 40% of tech support employees said they’d been called in to remove malware from the computer or other device of a senior executive, specifically malware that came from infected porn sites. Thirty-three percent said they had to remove malware caused by a malicious app the executive installed. Computerworld checked with several security experts, none of whom was particularly surprised by that statistic.

The ThreatTrack survey didn’t tease out how much of this was on BYODs. But in a February 2014 survey by consulting firm ITIC and security training company KnowBe4, 34% of survey participants said they either “have no way of knowing” or “do not require” end users to inform them when there is a security issue with employee-owned hardware. Some 50% of organizations surveyed acknowledged that their corporate and employee-owned BYOD and mobile devices could have been hacked without their knowledge in the last 12 months. “BYOD has become a big potential black hole for a lot of companies,” says Laura DiDio, ITIC principal analyst.

One big concern: As McAfee Labs warns in its 2014 Threat Predictions report, “Attacks on mobile devices will also target enterprise infrastructure. These attacks will be enabled by the now ubiquitous bring-your-own-device phenomenon coupled with the relative immaturity of mobile security technology. Users who unwittingly download malware will in turn introduce malware inside the corporate perimeter that is designed to exfiltrate confidential data.”

Today’s malware from porn sites is usually not the kind of spyware that’s dangerous to enterprises, says Carlos Castillo, mobile and malware researcher at McAfee Labs — but that could change. “Perhaps in the future, because of the great adoption of BYOD and people using their devices on corporate networks, malware authors could . . . try to target corporate information,” he says.

In fact, a proof-of-concept application was recently leaked that is designed to target corporate data from secure email clients, Castillo says. The software used an exploit to obtain root privileges on the device to steal emails from a popular corporate email client, alongside other spyware exploits like stealing SMS messages. “While we still have not seen malware from porn sites that is dangerous to enterprises,” Castillo says, “this leaked application could motivate malware authors to use the same techniques using malicious applications potentially being distributed via these [porn] sites.”

Beyond security, there could be legal liabilities in play as well, some analysts caution. For example, a corporation might be liable if an IT staffer saw evidence of child porn on a phone.

To be sure, porn sites cause only a small fraction of the problems that users introduce into the enterprise. According to Chester Wisniewski, senior security advisor at Sophos, some 82% of infected sites are not suspicious places like porn sites, but rather sites that appear benign. And for smartphones, the biggest malware danger is from unsanctioned apps, not NSFW sites, he says.

Roy Atkinson, a senior analyst at HDI, a professional association and certification body for the technical service and support industry, sees no evidence of a widespread problem. When he specifically asked a couple of IT professionals who are responsible for mobile management in their organization, “they told me either ‘we don’t see it’ or ‘we make believe we don’t see it,'” says Atkinson. “People don’t really want to think about this or talk about it much.”

Escalate or let it go?

Whatever the frequency, when and if NSFW issues do arise, the IT department often winds up functioning as a “first responder” that has to decide whether to escalate the incident or let it go. “If somebody complains about [a co-worker] displaying pictures on their smartphone at a meeting . . . then the company’s acceptable use policy will come into play,” says Atkinson. Or if IT employees find malware that came from a porn site and could endanger the network, they may say something — to the employee or to a manager. “But as we know, policies are enforced somewhat arbitrarily,” Atkinson says.

Barry Thompson, network services manager at ENE Systems, a $37-million energy management and HVAC controls company in Canton, Mass., says he has seen problems increase because of what he calls “bring your own connection.” People assume “that it’s their personal phone so they can do as they like,” he says. But they are using the office Wi-Fi network, which Thompson monitors. He can see every graphic that passes through the network. “If I notice pictures of naked people, I can click on it and find out who’s looking at that,” he says. When that happens, Thompson usually gives a warning on first offense. If it happens again, he brings in the employee’s supervisor.

It’s like the Wild West out there if it’s the employee’s own device. — Dipto Chakravarty, ThreatTrack Security

“It’s like the Wild West out there if it’s the employee’s own device,” says Dipto Chakravarty, executive vice president of engineering and products at ThreatTrack Security. Companies have a hard time enforcing their policies on BYOD devices, because it is, after all, the employee’s device.

Often, the “old boy network” kicks in. The user “is petrified that IT will see all these bad sites that the user has visited,” says Chakravarty. Employees admit they made a mistake and ask IT to please ignore the material. “IT doesn’t really want to see the dirty laundry, so they say, ‘Hey, no problem. I’ll just wipe it clean and you’re good to go,'” he says. “That’s the norm.”

The tendency to “cover for your buddies — guys have been doing that for time immemorial,” says Robert Weiss, senior vice president of clinical development with Elements Behavioral Health and a sex addiction expert. But there are social and ethical concerns for both the employee and for IT, says Weiss, co-author of the 2014 book, Closer Together, Further Apart: The Effect of Digital Technology on Parenting, Work and Relationships.

What happens, asks Weiss, when IT sees photos of naked children on someone’s phone, which could be child porn, or repeatedly removes malware from porn sites from the same user’s device, which could indicate an addiction? IT staffers are typically not well equipped to address criminal or addictive behaviors.

Weiss thinks there should be clear policies that indicate when IT needs to report such information to human resources, similar to policies about repeated drinking or signs of other addictions, and let HR take it from there. “The IT person should not be involved,” he says. “I would not want to put the IT person in the position of having to talk about sex with an employee that they don’t particularly know well.”

I would not want to put the IT person in the position of having to talk about sex with an employee that they don’t know well. — Robert Weiss, Elements Behavioral Health

At least one technical analyst, who has worked in IT support at a range of companies, thinks reporting such users to HR is taking it too far. Flagging child pornography is one thing, he says, but addiction? “I’m not going to HR about BYOD riddled with porn. It’s their device. As much as I love helping people, their personal porn habits, even at an addiction level, are not my problem. Unless it’s criminal, I don’t care.”

Protecting IT from users

The ideal fix is to create a corporate container to hold all business applications, including corporate email and Internet browsing.

And the best way to achieve that goal is with the emerging class of enterprise mobility management (EMM) technology, says Eric Ahlm, a research director at Gartner. “When properly configured, EMM solutions create a corporate container that provides OS-level security and isolates apps and data in the container from what’s outside,” explains Ahlm. The corporate container can encompass email applications, Web browsers, customer mobile applications and off-the-shelf mobile applications. Within that container, IT can create isolated data-sharing and -protection policies, or easily deploy more mobile apps, or remove them — all without touching the personal information outside of the container, he explains. “It makes all those issues go away.”

On the personnel management side of the equation, companies should be sure to update their acceptable use policies to include BYOD. ENE’s Thompson found that his company’s acceptable use policy did not mention personally owned devices. So last year, says Thompson, ENE amended the policy to specify that “any use of corporate resources or systems, regardless of ownership of the devices, obligates the user to comply with the corporate acceptable use policy.”


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Virtual reality gains a small foothold in the enterprise

Prototypes and simulations based on virtual reality can save companies millions.

The rapid growth of the mobile sector has had an unexpected dividend – by bringing down the costs and improving the quality of motion sensors, screens, and processors it has helped usher in a new era of virtual reality technology.

Systems previously available only to largest manufacturers or to the military can now be put together with consumer-grade technology at a fraction of the price, and companies are already taking advantage of the opportunities.

When it comes to virtual reality, one of the biggest bangs for the buck is in virtual prototypes. Virtual models of buildings, oil tankers, factory floors, store shelves or cars can now be uploaded into a virtual environment and examined by safety inspectors, designers, engineers, customers and other stakeholders.

The Ford Motor Company, for example, has long been using virtual reality when it comes to prototypes and simulations, but the new wave of virtual reality technology is dramatically expanding its reach.

Ford’s Immersive Virtual Environment lab, one of several areas in which Ford uses virtual reality, for example, has recently added the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to its virtual reality platforms.

It’s used in combination with a shell of a car where the seat, steering wheel, and other parts can be repositioned to match those of a prototype car.

“If you look at it, you’d think it was a very stripped-down vehicle,” says Elizabeth Baron, who heads up the lab. But when engineers sit down in the driver’s seat and put on virtual reality headsets, they’re virtually transported into the interior of the prototype.

Elizabeth Baron shows how Ford uses Oculus Rift.

“You have a gas pedal, brakes, steering wheel, a door, and when you’re touching stuff, it’s real,” Baron says. “But when you’re looking around, you’re seeing the virtual data. That’s where the Oculus is specially useful.”

The Oculus Rift is the head-mounted virtual reality display that ushered in the current age of virtual reality with a $2.4 million Kickstarter campaign in 2012, followed by a jaw-dropping $2 billion buyout by Facebook earlier this year.

The Oculus Rift hasn’t officially hit the market yet, but developer kits are available from the company for $350 each and more than 100,000 have already been sold. The device combines a high-resolution screen, motion sensors, and a set of lenses. The motion sensors track where the user is looking and the lenses stretch out the screen so it covers most of the user’s field of view. The result is a very convincing illusion that the wearer has been transported into a virtual world.

“I’m extremely excited about the developments in the headspace scene and the work Oculus has done to bring low cost, wide-field of view to the market,” Baron says. “I’m just over the moon about it. The good thing for Ford is, with our approach for using different display technologies, we’re already ready to take advantage of the developments that come out of the virtual headset space.”

Another virtual reality system is a CAVE (computer assisted virtual environment), which is a room with large screens on three walls and on the ceiling. Users wear stereoscopic glasses for a holodeck-like effect – life-size, 3D images of objects appear in the middle of the room, so that engineers can walk around and examine them.

Another system allows users to walk around inside a large open space while it tracks their position. “We can put an F-250 [super duty truck] into that environment and you can walk around it like it’s a life-sized vehicle,” Baron says. “It’s like an inspection tool for what we’re producing and what our customers might take delivery of. That’s a really important aspect in our product development process.”

A virtual environment allows engineers to dial up different lighting settings, to see how the exterior would look at noon on a hazy day, or in the evening or under mercury vapor lights. Virtual environments also help enable long-distance collaboration, she says.

“We also have a virtual space in Australia, and if they’re immersed and we’re immersed at the same time, we can see where they are in the virtual environment and we can talk to each other,” she says. “We can say, ‘Look at this, look at that.’”

And virtual reality allows the company to look at many more prototypes than would have been possible if they had to be actually built.

“There is no way we could build thousands of prototypes,” she says. “We would only be able to build a handful. But also, there is no way we could check in the physical world all the things we check in the virtual worlds. We can make intelligent decisions about our design, with respect to how we manufacture it, and that’s a huge time save and cost save.”

Ford is expanding its use of virtual reality, she adds. “We’re actually creating another virtual space here in Dearborn [Michigan] to handle the overflow,” she says. “We’re so packed. We can’t fit in what we can do in one day. It’s been shown to be so valuable.”

Ford also uses virtual reality for manufacturing assembly simulations, to help ensure the health and safety of workers, for training, and to study how drivers behave.

“We have driving simulations, another virtual reality application, where we’ll bring in people who haven’t slept all night and ask them to perform some tasks,” she says. “And then perform an analysis on how they respond versus someone who’s had their fresh cup of coffee and they’re bright and cheerful in the morning.”

Other manufacturing companies are also upgrading their virtual prototypes from simple 3D graphics on a monitor to fully immersive virtual reality systems such as those made possible by the Oculus Rift and similar devices.

Medical device companies, for example, are among the early adopters, says Jeremy Duimstra, a professor of user experience at University of California San Diego and CEO and creative director at San Diego-based MJD Interactive, which counts Disney, Red Bull, P&G and Titleist among its clients.

“Being able to virtually interact with a device in the design phase, without having to build physical objects … allows for more innovation,” he says.

Plus, there’s the cost savings of materials and manpower of physically mocking up hundreds of prototypes. “Build the product virtually, test it, iterate, and only build when you know it’s right,” he says.

Jeremy Duimstra
Environments that are physically dangerous for people are also ripe for going virtual.

“Our oil and gas clients are definitely interested in this space,” says Mary Hamilton, who heads up the digital experiences research and development group at Accenture. Immersive virtual reality allows people who might be in different locations to visit a difficult-to-reach facility, to get views such as X-rays or schematic views that might be impossible in real life, and enables low-risk, lower-cost training for new employees.

Marketing applications are also expanding, she says.
For example, low-cost head-mounted displays will allow retailers to replace their immersive CAVE environments – which can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up. Companies can use the technology to have focus groups walk through virtual stores, interact with different shelf layouts, or even try out new products.

“It would significantly lower costs, allow companies to do more of this, and allow them to do it in multiple locations,” she says.

The second wave
One virtual reality wave has already come and gone, in the 1990s. Movies like “The Lawnmower Man,” devices like Nintendo’s Virtual Boy and virtual reality arcades made the technology hot, but by the time “The Matrix” came out at the end of the decade it was clear that virtual reality technology was too expensive and too bulky for widespread use. In addition, graphics quality was poor and high latency and poor head-tracking combined to make users nauseous.

As a result, virtual reality became limited to high-end, narrowly focused applications such as military simulations, movie special effects, and training and simulations in manufacturing, oil, and the medical industries, says Jacquelyn Ford Morie, formerly a virtual reality expert at the University of Southern California’s Institute for Creative Technologies. Virtual reality immersion therapy has been used for a decade now to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and to manage the pain of burn victims.

“Now we have this second wave of virtual reality,” says Morie. “The difference between then and now is that it’s affordable. Instead of a $30,000 head-mounted display, you now have a $300 head-mounted display.”

jacquelyn ford morie
Jacquelyn Ford Morie is founder and chief scientist at All These Worlds Inc., a Los Angeles-based virtual environment consulting and development firm.

The general population is also more used to technology than they were 20 years ago, she adds, and there are more companies creating content for the new virtual reality platforms. Her own company creates applications in virtual worlds for NASA and other enterprise clients.

“We’re doing things like making virtual worlds that will help astronauts on long-duration space flight missions,” she says.

Today, most enterprise virtual reality is internally focused, she says. That is likely to change as more of this technology gets into the hands of consumers, and she’s looking forward to working on consumer-focused projects.

“If everyone has a 3D head-mounted display, there’s no reason not to feed a preview of that new product,” she says. “Create emotionally evocative, 3D immersive ads, so all of a sudden they feel like they’re on the mountain, about to ski down with my new snowboard.”


 

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Apple iPad Air 2 is thinner and speedier than its predecessors

Apple’s iPad Air 2 is thinner and lighter than its predecessor, and should be speedier as well, thanks to a new processor.

It also has improved camera and security features, as does the iPad Mini 3, Apple said Thursday during an event at it’s Cupertino, California, campus, unveiling the tablets at a time when the company’s dominance in that market has waned.

The iPad Air 2, which has a 9.7-inch screen, is 6.1 millimeter thick, which is 18 percent thinner than the iPad Air. The Air 2 offers 10 hours of battery life.

The tablet has the all-new A8X chip, which is a variant of the A8 chip in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The chip is 40 percent faster and provides 2.5 times better graphics than the A7 chip in the iPad Air.

“We’re able to deliver console-level graphics in your hand,” said Phil Schiller, Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing.

Other features include an 8-megapixel iSight rear camera and a FaceTime front camera. The iSight camera can take 1080p video that can be manipulated in multiple modes such as slow motion and time lapse.

Image and video manipulation tools such as Pixelmator and Replay will help users edit, repair and manipulate images, taking advantage of the faster graphics processor.

The iPad Mini 3 has a 7.9-inch screen, an A7 chip, a 5-megapixel iSight rear camera, a FaceTime camera and 802.11ac wireless.

Both tablets have the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which lets users bypass passwords when logging into a smartphone or buying things online. The fingerprint technology is used with the Apple Pay payment system.

The iPad Air 2 is priced at US$499 for 16GB and Wi-Fi storage, $599 for 64GB and $699 for 128GB. A version of the tablet with cellular connectivity is $130 more.

The iPad Mini 3 is priced at $399 for 16GB, $499 for 64GB and $599 for 128GB.

Both tablets can be ordered now, with shipping set for next week.

The tablets are hitting the market at a time when Android tablet makers Samsung, Lenovo and Asus are gaining ground on Apple. Apple’s tablet shipments declined 9.3 percent during the second quarter of 2014 compared to the same quarter last year, while overall worldwide tablet shipments went up 11 percent, according to IDC.

Apple faces further challenges as more users opt for larger-screen smartphones and hybrid devices instead of tablets. The iPhone 6 Plus, which has a 5.5-inch screen, is off to a hot start, and could hurt iPad sales. And Google’s Nexus 9, the first 64-bit Android tablet, starts shipping next month.

IDC is projecting overall worldwide tablet shipments to grow by just 6.5 percent this year.

But Apple CEO Tim Cook put a—predictably—positive spin on the situation at the event, noting that the company has sold 225 million tablets.

“We’ve sold more iPads in the first four years than any product in our history,” Cook said.


 

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Startup proposes fiber-based Glass Core as a bold rethink of data center networking

Software Defined Networking (SDN) challenges long held conventions, and newcomer Fiber Mountain wants to use the SDN momentum to leap frog forward and redefine the fundamental approach to data center switching while we’re at it. The promise: 1.5x to 2x the capacity for half the price.

How? By swapping out traditional top of rack and other data center switches with optical cross connects that are all software controlled. The resultant “Glass Core,” as the company calls it, provides “software-controlled fiber optic connectivity emulating the benefits of direct-attached connectivity from any port … to any other server, storage, switch, or router port across the entire data center, regardless of location and with near-zero latency.”

The privately funded company, headed by Founder and CEO M. H. Raza, whose career in networking includes stints at ADC Telecommunications, 3Com, Fujitsu BCS and General DataComm, announced its new approach at Interop in New York earlier this week. It’s a bold rethinking of basic data center infrastructure that you don’t see too often.

“Their value proposition changes some of the rules of the game,” says Rohit Mehra, vice resident of network infrastructure at IDC. “If they can get into some key accounts, they have a shot at gaining some mind share.”

Raza says the classic approach of networking data center servers always results in “punting everything up to the core” – from top of rack switches to end of row devices and then up to the core and back down to the destination. The layers add expense and latency, which Fiber Mountain wants to address with a family of products designed to avoid as much packet processing as possible by establishing what amounts to point-to-point fiber links between data center ports.

“I like to call it direct attached,” Raza says. “We create what we call Programmable Light Paths between a point in the network and any other point, so it is almost like a physical layer connection. I say almost because we do have an optical packet exchange in the middle that can switch light from one port to another.”

That central device is the company’s AllPath 4000-Series Optical Exchange, with 14 24-fiber MPO connectors, supporting up to 160×160 10G ports. A 10G port requires a fiber pair, and multiple 10G ports can be ganged together to support 40G or 100G requirements.

The 4000 Exchange is connected via fiber to any of the company’s top-of-rack devices, which are available in different configurations, and all of these devices run Fiber Mountain’s Alpine Orchestration System (AOS) software.

That allows the company’s homegrown AOS SDN controller, which supports OpenFlow APIs (but is otherwise proprietary), to control all of the components as one system. Delivered as a 1U appliance, the controller “knows where all the ports are, what they are connected to, and makes it possible to connect virtually any port to any other port,” Raza says. The controller “allows centralized configuration, control and topology discovery for the entire data center network,” the company reports, and allows for “administrator-definable Programmable Light Paths” between
How do the numbers work out? Raza uses a typical data center row of 10 racks of servers as the basis for comparison. The traditional approach;

Each rack typically has two top-of-rack switches for redundancy, each of which costs about $50,000 (so $100,000/rack, or $1 million per row of 10 racks).
Each row typically has two end-of-row switches that cost about $75,000 each (another $150,000)
Cabling is usually 5%-10% of the cost (10% of $1.15 million adds $115,000)
Total: $1.265 million

With the Fiber Mountain approach:
Each top-of-rack switch has capacity enough to support two racks, so a fully redundant system for a row of 10 racks is 10 switches, each of which cost $30,000. ($300,000).
The 4000 series core device set up at the end of an isle costs roughly $30,000 (and you need two, so $60,000).
Cabling is more expensive because of the fiber used, and while it wouldn’t probably be more than double the expense, for this exercise Raza says to use $300,000.

Total $660,000. About half, and that doesn’t include savings that would be realized by reducing demands on the legacy data center core now that you aren’t “punting everything up” there all the time.

What’s more, Raza says, “besides lower up front costs, we also promise great Opex savings because everything is under software control.”

No one, of course, rips out depreciated infrastructure to swap in untested gear, so how does the company stand a chance at gaining a foothold?

Incremental incursion.
Try us in one row, Raza says. Put in our top-of-rack switches and connect all the server fibers to that and the existing top-of-rack switch fibers to that, and connect our switches to one of our cores at the end of the isle. “Then, if you can get somewhere on fiber only, you can achieve that, or, if you need the legacy switch, you can shift traffic over to that,” he says.

Down the road, connect the end of isle Glass Core directly to other end of row switches, bypassing the legacy core altogether. The goal, Raza says, is to direct connect racks and start to take legacy switching out.

While he is impressed by what he sees, IDC’s Mehra says “the new paradigm comes with risks. What if it doesn’t scale? What if it doesn’t do what they promise? The question is, can they execute in the short term. I would give them six to 12 months to really prove themselves.”

Raza says he has four large New York-based companies considering the technology now, and expects his first deployment to be later this month (October 2014).


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States worry about ability to hire IT security pros

States’ efforts to improve cybersecurity are being hindered by lack of money and people. States don’t have enough funding to keep up with the increasing sophistication of the threats, and can’t match private sector salaries, says a new study.

This just-released report by Deloitte and the National Association of State CIOs (NASCIO) about IT security in state government received responses from chief information security officers (CISOs) in 49 states. Of that number, nearly 60% believe there is a scarcity of qualified professionals willing to work in the public sector.

Nine in 10 respondents said the biggest challenge in attracting professionals “comes down to salary.”

But the problem of hiring IT security professionals isn’t limited to government, according to Jon Oltsik, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG).

In a survey earlier this year of about 300 security professionals by ESG, 65% said it is “somewhat difficult” to recruit and hire security professionals, and 18% said it was “extremely difficult.”

“The available pool of talent is not really increasing,” said Oltsik, who says that not enough is being done to attract people to study in this area.

Oltsik’s view is backed by a Rand study, released in June, which said shortages “complicate securing the nation’s networks and may leave the United State ill-prepared to carry out conflict in cyberspace.”

The National Security Agency is the country’s largest employer of cybersecurity professionals, and the Rand study found that 80% of hires are entry level, most with bachelor’s degrees. The NSA “has a very intensive internal schooling system, lasting as long as three years for some,” Rand reported.

Oltsik said if the states can’t hire senior people, they should “get the junior people and give them lots of opportunities to grow and train.” Security professionals are driven by a desire for knowledge, want to work with researchers and want opportunities to present their own work, he said.

Another way to help security efforts, said Oltsik, is to seek more integrated systems, instead of lot of one-off systems that require more people to work on them.


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How to ensure the success of your private PaaS project

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Network World to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter’s approach.

Building a private platform-as-a-service (PaaS) cloud that provides on-demand access to databases, middleware, presentation layer and other services can enable consumer agility, lower the cost to maintain that agility, and increase the utilization of on-premise resources.

That is a trifecta of self-reinforcing value for the business. Agility and cost have traditionally been thought of as tradeoffs in IT, but thanks to standardization, consolidation and automation that is tightly coupled with the technology used to provide cloud services, private PaaS clouds have the potential to eliminate that trade off.

In order to achieve those simultaneous benefits, it’s important to think about why you are implementing a private cloud, what workloads make sense for that private cloud, and how you intend to marry the two together. Let’s look at five practical considerations for a successful discrete private cloud implementation project that can form the building block of an eventual larger-scale transformation.

* Suitable workloads. Most IT services are used to either run the business or grow/transform the business. Run the business activities such as ERP, CRM, Finance, HR and similar tend to have stable workloads, usually consisting of small deviations around a moving average, perhaps also with relatively predictable spikes such as seasonal or periodic variations. These activities also have a generally lower rate of change because they are ingrained in organizational processes, and are often centrally-managed for the same reason.

On the other hand, grow/transform activities involve launch of new offerings, big data analysis, cross-channel marketing/selling, and organizational change, all of which have unpredictable workloads and high ongoing rates of change.

Your intuition might tell you that the grow/transform activities are naturals for private PaaS clouds. The agility gained by developers allows them to provide new services on a short timeframe, while also allowing those services to be rapidly decommissioned if circumstances change. It’s also fairly obvious that many “run the business” workloads do not need the agility of private clouds, and in fact it may be a high-risk maneuver to place them on a shared services environment.

There is, however, a gray area in times of business change. During these periods of evolution many “run the business” applications are forced to act more like “grow/transform the business” applications – with high rates of change, variable workloads and the need for rapid provisioning/decommissioning. In those cases, the neat segregation between workloads breaks down. As such, a private PaaS cloud needs to be able to provide services that address the needs of both types of applications. It needs to provide agility… but with the reliability/security/scalability of traditional IT services.

* What services to offer? When it comes to figuring out what services to offer, the answer lies with your users. Help them prioritize their needs and offer as few services as possible.

Customers can have hundreds of variants in their IT environment. This sprawl is often the result of lack of governance, lack of standardization, and a bottoms-up/best-of-breed mentality that resulted in “configuration pollution” (a wide variance among arguably-similar stack configurations). Managing such an environment is expensive and inefficient.

Example of categories for a Private Cloud Service Catalog.
Compare that complexity to the service catalog of most public cloud providers. For example, the Oracle Database Cloud Service has only a few offerings. Not 50, or 500 or 5,000. Your private cloud service catalog should look and sound more like a public provider’s catalog. Doing that requires making choices about standardization and consolidation. Sometimes these choices are politically challenging, but they need to be made nonetheless or your private cloud will not provide the cost optimization that it should.

* Is chargeback necessary? Chargeback/showback is the idea of passing consumption costs back to the consumer either via internal automated transfer costs (chargeback) or simply via reporting (showback). It sounds great on paper, and is a relatively simple matter to execute technically with a fully-integrated cloud management regime (since the software that does the automated provisioning knows who’s using what at all times). But the transparency it provides is truly transformational to an organization, and therefore has political and human consequences. A well-implemented private PaaS cloud will automatically have all the information IT needs to make costs transparent, but making those costs visible is an organizational decision.

* PaaS versus IaaS? To reiterate, if your goal is agility and cost reduction, PaaS gives you more flexibility, more efficiency and more value than infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS). The raw shared compute and storage (think hypervisors, guest OSs, etc.) that IaaS provides are simply containers that then need to be installed, configured and managed, and that cost lives somewhere (either in the provider or the consumer’s bucket).

Furthermore, because most organizations pass the configuration effort onto the consumers, the tendency for “bottoms-up” configuration pollution continues to be a problem. I call this “cost shifting”. PaaS, on the other hand, provides instantly-consumable services (database, middleware, presentation layer, etc.) in standardized configurations that can be managed with minimum effort on an individual basis and with maximum efficiency on an enterprise scale. IaaS provides efficiency but primarily just shifts costs around. PaaS doesn’t just shift costs around, it eliminates a substantial portion of them outright.

Chart of service types

* How to succeed? The most successful model I’ve seen to introduce PaaS to an organization is to start small, with a well-defined scope. Pick a service, or two services, and a defined user base (say, a particular LOB development organization in a “grow the business” activity) and let them see what PaaS can do for them.

In conclusion, PaaS clouds offer an unprecedented opportunity to simultaneously lower costs, increase agility and maximize utilization. They also carry the potential for meaningful cultural transformation by making IT costs transparent. Unlocking that value requires careful up-front analysis and an unwavering commitment to consolidation, standardization and automation — and most importantly, simplicity. But with the proper commitment, the rewards can be tremendous.


 

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Apple quickly replaces bungled iOS 8 update

Offers iOS 8.0.2 to users as replacement for Wednesday’s botch

Apple yesterday released iOS 8.0.2, a replacement for the botched update that shipped the day before but crippled iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices by knocking them off their mobile carriers.

The turn-around for 8.0.2 was notable for its speed: Less than 36 hours after Apple yanked the flawed iOS 8.0.1, it began offering the substitute to customers.

iOS 8.0.2 Apple    
Apple cranked out the replacement for Wednesday’s crippling update in under 36 hours.

“Fixes an issue in iOS 8.0.1 that impacted cellular network connectivity and Touch ID on iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus,” the note accompanying iOS 8.0.2 stated.

Computerworld confirmed that the iOS 8.0.2 update installed on both the newest iPhones as well as on older models without problems, and without blocking phone calls on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

According to Apple, iOS 8.0.1 had affected only the newest iPhones, although there were scattered reports — including a small handful from Computerworld readers — that they had experienced problems with their iPads after installing Wednesday’s update during the narrow 90-minute window that it was available that day.

Customers had blasted Apple for the bungled iOS 8.0.1, wondering how the company had not caught the problem in testing. Some had demanded compensation for their troubles.

iPhone owners who downloaded iOS 8.0.1 while it was available, but did not finish the installation process before Apple pulled the update must first delete it from their devices before they will be able to retrieve 8.0.2. To delete the iOS 8.0.1 download, users must touch the “Settings” icon, then “General,” next “Usage,” and finally “Manage Storage.” Tapping the iOS 8.0.1 item and selecting “Delete” will remove the obsolete update.

OS 8.0.2 can be downloaded over the air from iPhones, iPads, iPad Minis and iPod Touches, or through iTunes. From an iPhone, for instance, users must touch the “Settings” icon, then “General” button on the resulting screen. Tapping “Software Update” will kick off the update process.


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CompTIA Taps Brain Science to Help You Conquer Certification Testing

CompTIA has launched a new e-learning tool that leverages research in neurobiology, cognitive psychology and game studies and uses key principles from each field to help you learn necessary information quickly and retain it long-term.

The CertMaster training program, available for A+, Network+, Security+ and Strata IT Fundamentals certification tracks, features a variety of techniques to help you learn, including adaptive learning, spacing and motivation triggers, says Terry Erdle, CompTIA’s executive vice president of certification and learning, and to give students the confidence to pass the test and move on to an IT career.

Closing the IT Training Gap

“We’ve seen over the years that we train far more people than we test,” Erdle says. “While there’s tremendous effort to train on tests like A+ and Network+, students don’t always follow through and actually take the exam, and we are trying to address some of the reasons that’s happening,” he says.

Erdle says sometimes this lack of follow-through is cultural, or because of logistical challenges — some students can’t physically get to a testing location, he says — but is most often a result of an intense fear of failure or lack of confidence in the ability to learn and retain the information.

“We’re trying to overcome these challenges by tapping into brain science and figuring out how best to prepare students to both sit a challenging exam and pass, and also how to have confidence that those skills and knowledge will stay with them as they move into new IT jobs,” Erdle says.

The Science of Games

Most of the scientific research CompTIA used to develop CertMaster is the same as that used by the gaming industry to keep players engaged and energized while playing, and encourages a sense of progression, risk, achievement and curiosity. This pings dopamine levels — since it feels good to succeed — and creates a positive feedback loop, making it easier to retain information and skills. CertMaster also provides immediate, high-level feedback to encourage students to learn from mistakes and lessen the risk they’ll abandon the course, says Erdle.

Erdle says CertMaster’s personalized, adaptive learning and data analytics technology will customize the training to each individual’s strengths, weaknesses and level of knowledge and retention.

[Related: How Gamification Makes Customer Service Fun]

“In traditional learning, repetition is how material is taught. But in adult learning situations, each adult brings a different level of knowledge about different subjects, and it’s hard to know what’s relevant for each one,” he says. “CertMaster can quickly figure out and then benchmark each student’s knowledge so they’re not hammering on material they already know,” he says.

Data analytics can also predict when students have reached their maximum learning capacity and need to take a break.

CompTIA CertMaster is available starting June 4, 2014, and costs $139.00 per course, Erdle says. Discount pricing is available for academic institutions, and separate channel partner pricing is also available, he says. CertMaster can be accessed via any Web browser, and on both iOS and Android mobile devices. Visit certification.comptia.org for even more information.


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Hackers compromised nearly 5M Gmail passwords

Gmail users urged to change passwords after apparent attack

Security experts are urging Gmail users to change their passwords amid reports that hackers gained access to the credentials of 5 million users of the free email service. Some password combinations have been spotted on Russian cybercrime forums.

Peter Kruse, head of the eCrime unit at CSIS Security Group in Copenhagen, told Computerworld that most of the nearly 5 million stolen Gmail passwords are about three years old, but many are still legitimate and functioning.

He said that CSIS experts suspect that several hackers worked on an endpoint compromise to exploit vulnerable network protocols.

Google did not respond to a Computerworld request for comment but has told other news outlets that it has found no evidence that their systems have been compromised.

Google’s cloud-based email service is used by individuals as well as enterprises.

Russian media outlet RIA Novosti reported that hackers have stolen and published a database containing the Google account logins and passwords to a Bitcoin Security online forum.

The database reportedly contains 4.93 million Google accounts from English, Russian and Spanish users.

Kruse said the discovery of the hack comes just days after more than 4.6 million Russian-based Mail.ru accounts and 1.25 million Yandex e-mail boxes were reportedly compromised. Yandex is the largest Russian-based search engine.

 


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Intel’s Core M chips headed to 20 Windows tablets, hybrids

Intel’s new Core M chips — which bring PC-like performance to paper-thin tablets — will initially be in many Windows 8.1 tablets, but no Android devices are yet on the radar.

The chips will be in five to seven detachable tablets and hybrids by year end, and the number of devices could balloon to 20 next year, said Andy Cummins, mobile platform marketing manager at Intel.

Core M chips, announced at the IFA trade show in Berlin on Friday, are the first based on the new Broadwell architecture. The processors will pave the way for a new class of thin, large-screen tablets with long battery life, and also crank up performance to run full PC applications, Intel executives said in interviews.

“It’s about getting PC-type performance in this small design,” Cummins said. “[Core M] is much more optimized for thin, fanless systems.”

Tablets with Core M could be priced as low as US$699, but the initial batch of detachable tablets introduced at IFA are priced much higher. Lenovo’s 11.6-inch ThinkPad Helix 2 starts at $999, Dell’s 13.3-inch Latitude 13 7000 starts at $1,199, and Hewlett-Packard’s 13.3-inch Envy X2 starts at $1,049.99. The products are expected to ship in September or October.

Core M was also shown in paper-thin prototype tablets running Windows and Android at the Computex trade show in June. PC makers have not expressed interest in building Android tablets with Core M, but the OS can be adapted for the chips, Cummins said.

The dual-core chips draw as little as 4.5 watts, making it the lowest-power Core processor ever made by Intel. The clock speeds start at 800MHz when running in tablet mode, and scales up to 2.6GHz when running PC applications.

The power and performance characteristics make Core M relevant primarily for tablets. The chips are not designed for use in full-fledged PCs, Cummins said.

“If you are interested in the highest-performing parts, Core M probably isn’t the exact right choice. But if you are interested in that mix of tablet form factor, detachable/superthin form factor, this is where the Core M comes into play,” Cummins said.

For full-fledged laptops, users could opt for the upcoming fifth-generation Core processor, also based on Broadwell, Cummins said. Those chips are faster and will draw 15 watts of power or more, and be in laptops and desktops early next year.

New features in Core M curbed power consumption, and Intel is claiming performance gains compared to chips based on the older Haswell architecture. Tablets could offer around two more hours of battery life with Core M.

In internal benchmarks, the dual-core Core M 5Y70 CPU provided faster application and graphics performance compared to the Haswell-based Core i5-4302Y chip operating at 4.5 watts. The Core M chip was faster by 19 percent on office productivity, 12 percent on Web applications, 47 percent on 3D graphics and 82 percent on video conversion.

The new 14-nanometer manufacturing process also helped reduce the Core M size and power consumption. Intel’s current chips are made using the 22-nm process.

“We needed to have smaller transistors and smaller die, which leads to a smaller package” that can fit inside thin tablets, Cummins said.

More innovative features are in store for devices with Core M. Starting in early 2015, there will be an option for wireless docking through WiGig, a wireless technology faster than Wi-Fi. Intel is currently developing a “smart dock” through which laptops can wirelessly connect to monitors and external peripherals like mice and keyboards.


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You drain me: Apple replaces some iPhone 5 batteries for free

‘Very small percentage’ affected, says Apple; but small sample showed 2 out of 3 phones eligible

Apple last week said that it will replace some iPhone 5 batteries free of charge, claiming that “a very small percentage” of the smartphones needed to be charged more often and that those charges were quickly exhausted.

The program, which was announced only in a support document published on Apple’s website, offered free battery replacements for iPhone 5 devices that “suddenly experience shorter battery life or need to be charged more frequently.”

According to Apple, the affected phones were sold between September 2012 and January 2013, and “fall within a limited serial number range.” The Cupertino, Calif. company also said that only “a very small percentage” of iPhone 5 devices were impacted.

Computerworld’s experience was different. Out of an admittedly small sample — three iPhone 5 phones bought during the stretch in question, each several weeks apart — two were eligible for the battery replacement. Neither of the two that qualified, however, had required more charging than was normal for a nearly-two-year-old iPhone, nor did their batteries drain any faster than the third, ineligible, device.

Apple started selling the iPhone 5 on Sept. 21, 2012. It retired the model last year when it was replaced by the iPhone 5S and 5C.

This was not the first time that Apple has dealt with iPhone battery issues. In October 2013, the company confirmed that it was contacting a “very limited” number of iPhone 5S owners and offering them a replacement phone.

In both 2009 and 2011, iPhone users also reported battery-draining problems with their iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4S devices, respectively.

Customers can check their iPhone 5 for battery replacement eligibility on Apple’s website by entering their device’s serial number. That can be found under Settings/General/About.

Until Friday, Aug. 29, the replacement deal will be available only in the U.S. and China; on that date, other countries will come online.

Users must take advantage of the free replacement within two years of the phone’s last purchase, or by March 1, 2015, whichever comes first. Customers can take their smartphones to an Apple retail store or authorized service provider for the new battery swap, or ship it to Apple.


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The best cities for landing top pay for your tech skills

Target your talent: The best cities for landing top pay for your tech skills

IT pros looking for a new gig, take heed: Those $140,000-per-year jobs in San Francisco are worth just $86,000 when adjusted for the cost of living. So if you’re looking to cash in on the tech gold rush, you’d be significantly better off taking a $100,000 offer in Denver.

InfoWorld has teamed with PayScale, which tracks compensation, and job board Dice to help you find where your IT salary will go the furthest. We’ve drilled down and examined data for six hot job categories: software developer, systems engineer, software architect, security architect, network architect, and IT program manager. We’ll show you the cities that make the most economic sense to live in if you’ve got the skills to land a job in one of those specialties.

Tech meccas: Top pay — but at what cost?
You can’t, no matter what say, have it all. These five metro areas offer many perks: great weather in San Diego, great cultural advantages in New York and Boston, and the creative ferment and buzz of Silicon Valley and San Francisco. But all that comes at the price of an extremely high cost of living that shrinks that six-figure paycheck to a relatively modest level.

Note: Salary figures throughout represent median pay. Dice.com job listings were current as of late June. Cost of living index data is provided by the The Council for Community and Economic Research and consists of six major categories: groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, health care, and miscellaneous goods and services.

Five metro areas where your salary will go the furthest
If finding a job that pays the best is your priority, there are gems scattered about the country that offer plentiful jobs and an affordable cost of living. Raleigh, N.C., the heart of the famed Research Triangle, tops our list of metro areas combining abundant jobs with the highest adjusted salaries for IT workers. Salt Lake City and Austin are just a nose behind, so who needs the expense of Silicon Valley or Route 128?

Software developers: The IT employees most in demand
It’s not a surprise that the greater Seattle area, home to tech giants like Microsoft and Amazon, is fertile ground for a software developer looking for a new job. In late June, the Dice job board listed more than 500 openings for software developers in Seattle, Redmond, Bellevue, and surrounding cities, including nearly 100 at Amazon alone, while Microsoft’s website offers hundreds. But dig a little deeper and you’ll see that Detroit — a city not on the radar screen of many techies — and nearby communities have more than 200 jobs for developers and an adjusted pay scale that’s only about 10 percent behind the leader. Other bang-for-the-buck oases off the tech-beaten track are Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Atlanta.

Senior systems engineers — Huntsville, anyone?
If St. Louis brings to mind the Gateway Arch and Budweiser Clydesdales but not tech, better think again. You’ll find 83 listings for senior systems engineers along the Mississippi. Some are fairly specialized. CSC, for instance, is targeting engineers with security clearance and skills in Informatica, Cognos, Business Objects, and more. If you’re willing to pursue a less senior title, Huntsville, Ala., a city with strong ties to the aerospace industry, currently has 72 listings for “system engineers,” including many at Northrop Grumman. And again, solid job prospects and cheaper living costs make Phoenix, Houston, Dallas, and Detroit worth considering. Note: systems engineer is a somewhat vague title, so you’ll need to drill down as you look for a good fit.

Calling (certified) software architects
“Software architect” can mean a lot of things, so it’s hard to gauge actual demand. But looked at broadly, employers in the Atlanta area, for example, not only pay a higher than average salary, but have the most job openings listed (325) in this category. It’s worth noting that a significant portion of the jobs are actually listings placed by staffing agencies filling jobs for their clients. CyberCoders, for example, is looking for a “senior voice collaboration architect” with the following specific skills: CCIE, CCDE, CCNP Voice, CCDP, MCSE, CISSP, TDM/PBX Certifications, Crestron, VOIP. Sure, that’s a long list, but the base salary is “six figures” and the company offers relocation assistance if you don’t already live nearby.

Security architects: Data breaches creating high demand
Given the rash of data breaches of late, it’s not surprising that security-related jobs are fairly plentiful — and employers are seeking a more business-minded skill set. A listing for a job at Capella University in Minneapolis, for example, defines the security architect role as “responsible for continuously protecting our critical information assets and brand name, assuring compliance with corporate and regulatory policies/standards & industry best practices, while simplifying, enhancing and enabling business initiatives.” In this case, you’d need the following certifications: CISSP, CISA, CISM, or GIAC. Synergy Computer Solutions, a consultancy in Auburn Hills, Mich., seeks a security architect with at least five years of experience with Web access management tools. The job pays $54 to $59 an hour.

Top cities for network architects
How does $3,000 a week sound? That’s what California Systems is offering for a Network Architect in Glendale, Calif. The company’s need is urgent. There’s a long list of required skills and certifications, including HP ASE for Network Architect, SCE/SCM, ITILv3. Fifty miles down the freeway in Irvine, Greenfield Partners seeks a wireless network architect. The job requires that you “communicate effectively at the IT and business facing executive leadership level,” a common requirement as IT functions move out of the IT department ghetto. The Los Angeles area, which doesn’t appear often in these lists, has 154 listings and a competitive salary range, even when adjusted for living costs. Chicago shows high demand, translating to high pay that goes far.

Hotspots for program managers
Baltimore: A great city to eat crabs, catch a baseball game or visit the grave of Edgar Allen Poe. And if you’re looking for a job as an IT program manager, you’ll find 308 within a 40-mile radius of Charm City. A fair number of these jobs are with companies that have contracts with the federal government and some require a security clearance. There’s more money (in adjusted dollars) to be made in the Houston area, but only about one-third as many jobs for program managers, while that other Texas city, Dallas, offers just under 200. And don’t forget about Raleigh and Phoenix.


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Data Centers to World: Not Dead Yet!

Anticipating the next-gen data center

Agility and flexibility are two of the most popular words to describe the attributes expected from IT in helping achieve future business objectives. But how do you apply those attributes to what many large enterprises still consider the linchpin of IT infrastructure – the data center?

There are not, yet, many companies like Condé Nast, which recently shuttered its data center to go “all in with the cloud.” Let’s face it, if you’re a content company, albeit one of the select few with a still thriving print business, transforming to an all-cloud strategy makes a lot of sense.

For just about any other industry, cloud may drive new growth and innovation, but the bulk of business is still dependent on heavy-duty data center servers and applications to run the daily operations.

For many, the prospect of going “all in” on cloud is an unachievable goal, at least for the short-term. Why disrupt transactional systems that are working well and then have to deal with the reliability and performance questions that need to be resolved to migrate them to the cloud? You can utilize online tools to calculate the ROI of new cloud projects, but how do you calculate unknown potential disruption to mission-critical applications?

CIOs are, by nature, fairly cautious and few are willing to gamble on putting all enterprise applications out in the cloud at this stage. Meeting the challenge of tomorrow, however, doesn’t necessarily mean abandonment of what is working well today. Enterprises can cost-effectively implement phased network architecture upgrades that enable new levels of application flexibility and business agility.

Many have reduced data center costs by moving more applications onto fewer servers and also reduced licensing fees and other costs by migrating to a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model. This highly virtualized, services on demand model is the foundation on which future cloud efforts will build.

As this migration to a virtualized environment continues, the underlying network architecture should also evolve. You wouldn’t want a Boeing 777 to rely on the hydraulics controls of an earlier era, nor should you expect the cloud-based enterprise to perform well on networking that hasn’t evolved to meet new needs and expectations.

Existing network design must adapt gracefully, one rack at a time, but network infrastructure must be flexible enough to support both dedicated and virtualized hardware. Each organization needs to determine when and how far to converge IP and Fibre Channel traffic; in some cases, convergence may not make sense for applications that require assured high availability.

Data center evolution without revolution does, however, require a determination on the number of layers within each network, the number of switching tiers in each layer, and the management model for virtualization and cloud computing services. The key is to move toward a target design along a well-planned path and to use incremental steps to control risk.

Ultimately, this path will lead many to realize that the virtualized environment requires a flatter network that accommodates the flow within, between and among servers, something that can be achieved with Ethernet Fabrics.

 


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9 wireless battery chargers: No power? No problem!

Tired of having to fumble for the USB port every time your mobile device runs out of power? With these wireless chargers, just put your device down and let it power up.

Wireless chargers are about convenience. Plop your mobile device on a charging station and as long as it’s within range (5mm or .20 in. for most chargers) it will power up, no wires needed (but at a slightly slower rate than a wired charger).

The technologies incorporated into most of these chargers is Qi, a standard developed by the Wireless Power Consortium. It transfers energy from the charger to your device through an electromagnetic field. If your phone doesn’t have Qi built in, there are a variety of Qi-compliant cases available.

Meanwhile, a merger between the Alliance for Wireless Power (A4WP) and the Power Matters Alliance (PMA) could provide another alternative.

Need a boost? We’ve assembled one PMA and eight Qi-enabled chargers.

Anker Qi-Enabled Single-Position Wireless Charger
The Anker wireless charging pad has not one, but two display lights on its face. A power indicator glows green if the pad is connected to a power source; a charge indicator lights up green when it is charging your phone but flashes red when your phone is placed incorrectly on the pad (it will stay red if it has malfunctioned). Standard graphics on the face of the charger show where you should place your phone.
As with most wireless chargers, the 6.1 × 3.5 × 0.3 in. Anker will power your device about 15% to 20% slower than a wired charger. It plugs into a power source through a micro USB port on the bottom edge.
Price: $29.99 retail

Choe Inductive Qi Wireless Power Pad
At 3.6 x 3.6 x 0.3 in. and weighing only 2.5 oz., the compact Choe wireless charger is the smallest charger profiled here. It is available in either white or black.
An LED indicator on the side of the charger lets you know it is working; the blue light on the edge will flicker continuously when it is charging your phone. The company says it will charge a Nexus 5 smartphone in around four hours.
Price: $29.99 retail

Duracell Powermat
Instead of Qi, Duracell’s Powermat uses a magnetic inductive charging technology championed by the PMA. As a benefit, the PMA is partnering with stores like Starbucks to provide wireless power stations for customers.
The Powermat needs to be coupled with a Duracell wireless case in order to work ($49.99 for an iPhone 5/5S, $25.99 for an iPhone 4/4S or a Samsung Galaxy S III). An audible beep tells you charging has started successfully and another sounds when your device is fully powered — the Powermat then stops to avoid overcharging your batteries.
A Powermat for one device measures 3.75 x 3.75 x 0.37 in.; larger versions accommodate up to three devices.
Price: $39.99 direct, $24.69 retail (for one-device version)

Gmyle Qi Wireless Charging Pad
The Gmyle aims to keep your smartphone steady. Magnets snap your phone into the optimal position for charging, and the pad sports a non-slip surface to keep the phone in place (since evidently the magnets alone don’t do the trick). And your phone has to be only within 8mm to 9mm (about 1/3 in.) of the Gmyle, almost twice the max distance of most chargers.
This thin, black charging pad is only slightly larger than many smartphones, so it requires little real estate on your table. Gmyle says the device charges at over 80% the rate of plugged-in chargers.
Price: $29.98 direct, $26.98 retail

Mugenizer N11 Portable Wireless Charger Power Bank
It’s hard to stand out from the pack. What makes the Mugenizer N11 unusual is that this wireless charger doubles as a portable battery. You can also plug in your device the old-fashioned, wired way. In fact, you can charge two phones simultaneously: one plugged in and one wireless.
With a 4800mAh capacity, the 8.1 oz. Mugenizer has the capability to charge a phone more than once. A rubberized ring in the middle of the 2.9 x 5.4 x 0.5 in. pad keeps your phone from slipping when charging. Six LED lights let you know when the Mugenizer is charging a phone and also tell you how much juice is left.
Price: $69.95 direct

Nokia Wireless Charging Plate
If you find the basic black, white and silver of other wireless chargers boring, then Nokia’s Wireless Charging Plate might have the style you are looking for. It doesn’t only come in white or black, but also cyan, red and yellow.
Measuring 2.36 x 4.72 x .43 in., the Nokia charger is compatible with all Qi-enabled devices. And it is recyclable to boot. A small light on the edge of the charger shines continuously while your phone is charging and it gives one long blink when the charge is complete. Just try not to miss it.
Price: $24.50 – $49.99 retail

Oregon Scientific Time & Wireless Charging Station
If you find yourself missing the old-fashioned nightstand clock from the days of yore, you may want to try Oregon Scientific’s Time & Wireless Charging Station. It’s not only a Qi charger — it also acts as an alarm clock and gives you the date and the indoor/outdoor temperatures.
Just drop your phone on the station before you go to bed and it will be ready to go in the morning. Charging is not placement specific, so you don’t have to worry about lining your phone up with a charging point. The digital display is blue, and the alarm clock comes in either black or white.
Price: $129.99 direct, $29.30 – $109.99 retail

RavPower Orbit Qi-Enabled Wireless Charger
Lose things a lot? If you’re always wondering where your wireless charger’s cable ended up, look to the RavPower Orbit. It comes with a built-in USB cable that wraps handily around its base when you’re not using it.
To accommodate the wrapped cord, the Orbit is thicker than other wireless chargers, measuring 2.8 x 0.8 x 2.8 in. Like many wireless chargers, it detects when your phone is fully charged and automatically switches into idle mode. The device also makes a “ding” sound when it connects with your phone and a red LED light indicates when your phone is charging or fully charged.
It also sports an anti-slip surface to keep your phone from sliding off.
Price: $39.99 direct, $35.99 retail

Tylt Vu Wireless Charger
While most wireless chargers take longer to power your device than their wired counterparts, Tylt maintains that its Vu wireless charger will fill your phone’s battery just as fast as if you plugged it in.
Another useful feature of the Vu is that its futuristic design allows you to easily see your phone while it charges, since it rests on a 45-degree angle. So you can charge your phone and watch your favorite video at the same time. Also, it looks cool.
The Vu comes in green, blue, red or black and measures 7.5 x 3.5 x 0.5 in.
Price: $69.99 direct
Rebecca Linke is an associate online editor at Computerworld who writes about social media and personal technology, among other topics.

Tylt Vu Wireless Charger
While most wireless chargers take longer to power your device than their wired counterparts, Tylt maintains that its Vu wireless charger will fill your phone’s battery just as fast as if you plugged it in.
Another useful feature of the Vu is that its futuristic design allows you to easily see your phone while it charges, since it rests on a 45-degree angle. So you can charge your phone and watch your favorite video at the same time. Also, it looks cool.
The Vu comes in green, blue, red or black and measures 7.5 x 3.5 x 0.5 in.
Price: $69.99 direct
Rebecca Linke is an associate online editor at Computerworld who writes about social media and personal technology, among other topics.


 

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How to Clean Up Your IT Resume

As spring comes to a close, it’s an ideal time to clear the clutter from your resume. It’s key to make sure you present only relevant, current information in the most attractive way possible. Here, three experts weigh in on what to toss out and what to keep.

The warm weather signals time to open the windows, deep-clean the house and enjoy the sunshine. But don’t forget to clear the clutter from your resume while you’re at it; even if you’re not currently looking for a job, keeping your resume fresh and updated is a must. Here, three experts weigh in on what to keep and what to toss.

Blocking any useful cloud app doesn’t work and ultimately does the business a disservice. This list

Use Formatting to Your Advantage
In short, a resume is a one-page overview of your life, says Michelle Joseph, talent acquisition expert and CEO of PeopleFoundry. “However creative you may get with fonts and colors, the content is of the utmost importance,” Joseph writes in her blog.

That said, you do want to take advantage of fonts and formatting to help highlight important content, says Caitlin Sampson, CHRP, CPRW, CEIP and Career Consultant with Regal Resumes.

“Companies get a lot of resumes, and you want to stand out as much as possible,” Sampson says. “Take advantage of the fact that a reader’s eyes go to the first half of the resume first, and that readers are more likely to remember the first and last line of every paragraph,” she says.

The Objective Statement
The general, vague objective statement, long a constant on the traditional resume, is now tired and obsolete, according to Joseph. While you still need to include a statement of intent, make sure this is customized and specific to the job you’re applying for.

“By speaking only in generalities, you’re not adding any substance to the resume,” Joseph writes. She adds that many of today’s job seekers just eliminate the objective statement altogether, but if the resume feels naked without it, a sentence or two explaining why you’ll be perfect for the position you’re applying for will suffice.

Rona Borre, CEO and president of IT staffing and recruiting firm Instant Technology, says having such a statement at the top of the resume helps focus a reader and is crucial to setting the stage for the rest of the resume.

“From a logistical standpoint, it’s really crucial to have that at the top, as long as it’s geared to the position that you’re applying for,” Borre says. “This is your ‘elevator pitch’ — the company is your customer and you’re selling yourself to the job, so make sure your opening statement is powerful and aimed right at the position,” she says.

Contact Information and References

Keep personal data and contact information short and sweet. Ensure that you have important contact information such as your name, email, and phone number at the top of the page, but relegate references to a separate page that’s only sent if employers specifically ask for it, she adds. “If they want references, they will request them; there is no need for you to waste space saying, ‘References available upon request,’ either,” Joseph writes.

You must provide the name of the college or university that you graduated from along with the degree you received, according to Joseph. And for applicants new to the job market, this can be a great way to draw attention to relevant curriculum or projects that could highlight desired skills, even without on-the-job experience, says Instant Technology’s Borre.

“Newer folks in the workforce should have a strong educational portion of their resume where they highlight skills, classes, projects, etc. that are relevant to the role they want,” Borre says.

“Even if you don’t have a lot of work experience, laying out the skills, roles and responsibilities you had and the outcome of those projects is also important to show you’re adept at teamwork and have leadership skills,” Borre says.

But make sure you include information about the outcome of the project, which is important for recruiters and hiring managers. And, Borre adds, don’t get caught in the trap of the collective “we” when outlining the scope and outcome of projects and curriculum — you want to seem like a team player, but also highlight individual strengths.

“Make sure you are highlighting your individual role on the team and how you contributed to the project or program’s success,” she says. “Remember, the company is hiring you, not the group you worked with.”

Keep the Past in the Past
Your resume should include only the last 10 to 15 years of work history, the experts agree. Experience from more than a decade ago is no longer pertinent information for an application, as much will have changed since that time, Joseph writes. Unless a job was deliberately short-term — like an internship, a contract position, or a job in event planning, then it should be left off the page as well, she adds.

And every job listed should have some relevance to the posting you’re applying for, experts agree. “If you worked at a grocery store for three months 22 years ago, you don’t need to include that information,” says Regal Resumes’ Sampson.

To make it easier to customize resumes for different positions, Joseph suggests keeping a master list of every one of your past jobs, roles, responsibilities, dates and the like so you can quickly add or subtract information relevant to the job you’re looking at.

This is tricky: You want some level of granularity here, but not an excessive amount of detail, which could bore readers and turn their attention elsewhere.

Joseph suggests including an overview of tasks and duties during the duration of your time in each job, without going into the mundane, tedious tasks that are a given, like filing, copying and other administrative duties.

However, you should provide information that shows results, says Sampson, and prove that you are able to work as a team, multitask, assume leadership responsibility and any other relevant information by using examples.

“If you’re applying for a project management position, include past experience, roles, responsibilities and outcomes that showcase your project management skills,” Sampson says. “And make sure you show measurement — instead of just saying that you saved your previous employer money, it helps to explain the scope of that savings. So, you ‘saved the company $10 million over my five years there,'” Sampson says.

And you should always be looking for ways to improve your abilities and gain new skills and knowledge, says Sampson, and add these to your resume.

“Taking courses and learning new skills can help you to stay current and have a competitive edge over others in the job market,” Sampson says. “For example, if you notice a lot of companies you’re applying to are looking for someone who has SharePoint experience, then go out and get some SharePoint experience,” she says.

Finally, one of the most important steps is to proofread. A few missed commas or misspelled words may not seem like a big deal, but to a hiring manager or employer, these details can make a huge difference. If you’re not certain, have a friend or colleague take a peek and make sure to accept and incorporate their feedback.


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